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by Megan Smith

We were careful when it came to our new 6-week-old. We didn’t take her anywhere unnecessary, and we made sure that anyone who was or had been sick didn’t visit. I had no idea what was coming next and how it would change my outlook on preventive measures

The symptoms weren’t alarming at first

We noticed that our baby—who hated sleep—was actually sleeping a lot more than usual. We were ecstatic. Maybe she finally got the hang of sleeping? The next day we noticed that she had a stuffy nose and a cough. I treated her at home with my go-to measures for any cold. 

That night I noticed the cough was a little bit more constant and that she was more lethargic. I called the doctor in the morning. When we took her in, she was diagnosed with RSV, but the doctor said that her vitals were great and her lungs were clear. 

RSV was something I had not even heard about

I thought RSV was just a bad cold and only affected people who were older and had some sort of compromised health. The doctor did tell me that with RSV, things can turn bad very quickly. He told me to just monitor my baby’s breathing and continue with conservative treatment at home, like nasal mist, steam showers, and good hydration.

When her breathing changed, I knew something was not right

That night I could tell there was some difference in her breathing. I could see retractions in her ribs. Her breathing was very fast and her cough was definitely worse. Following the doctor’s advice and knowing something was not right, I took her to urgent care where they took one look at her and informed me they would be taking her by ambulance to the ER

I was shocked. Hours ago, my doctors said everything was stable. How could we be on our way to the ER?

My emergency room education about RSV

When we got to the hospital, they started suctioning my baby through her nose and mouth with a long tube, began an IV, and placed her on oxygen. I asked the attending physicians how a cold could cause this. They educated me on RSV. They said it is a very serious respiratory illness that progresses quickly and can be very dangerous. They decided to monitor her overnight and warned me that days 3 through 5 are often the worst. 

From emergency room to PICU in 12 hours

Everything seemed to plateau overnight. But 12 hours after being admitted to the hospital, all of our baby’s vitals dropped and her color had turned to gray. We were immediately transferred to the PICU, and she was placed on a higher oxygen level. The doctor explained she was working too hard to breathe and that the oxygen might not work. Unfortunately, the oxygen wasn’t enough. My 6-week-old baby was intubated

I could not believe that this was happening.

I thought I was keeping my baby safe

I cannot explain what it feels like to watch my baby being poked, prodded, suctioned, and not to be able to hold her or comfort her in any way. Instead, I was listening to her cry and struggle with a tube down her throat to keep her alive. 

The next day they asked us what we wanted to happen if she passed away. They asked me if I had a will prepared for my baby. I never felt so much guilt in my life. 

I thought I was keeping my baby safe and doing all the right things. I worried that she was being taken away from me anyway. To make matters worse, my 5-year-old was home with RSV. She also had a very severe case, but did not have to be hospitalized. It pulled at my momma heart strings that I could not be there with her. 

I wish there were a vaccine for RSV

Thankfully on day 7, my baby began to improve. By day 9, we were back home. 

Before this happened, if my kids were offered a vaccine or preventive treatment for RSV, I probably would have declined because I didn’t think this would progress the way it did. I was not aware how potentially dangerous this situation could be. 

As you can see, as careful as we were, this still happened. I wish there were a vaccine for RSV because I would 100 percent get it to avoid the traumatic situation we experienced.

Editor’s note: Within the next two years, we are hoping to have effective RSV vaccines. Watch Paul Offit describe how they will work and why they’re important.

Megan Smith is a wife and mother to two beautiful girls, trying to be the best possible advocate for them. If you want to help make a difference, submit your own post by emailing Noah at [email protected]. We depend on real people like you sharing experience to help others feel confident in choosing vaccination.

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